Archive for January, 2009

Lining up for a marathon is always a great exercise in face reading. Plenty are pensive and nervous. A few are excited. Some are just sleepy.

When the horn goes off, the slower runners immediately go to one side. The excitement carries the unwary and makes them run faster than they want to. It’s dark, and there is no way to check how fast one is going.

Around mile 3, the runners settle in. It thins a bit, allowing the marathoners a brief respite from the work ahead. The views are not bad this morning.

Two young women pass by. Each wearing a shirt that say “Bride-to-be” and “Maid-of-honor”. I asks when the day will be? The girl smiles and says “June”. I congratulate her.

I see a guy hobble up mile 6. He wears a compression sleeve on his left knee and is obviously nursing an injury. Why is this guy running a marathon? He is making this “shhhck, shhhck” sound as he attempts to run.

The road climbs, and I hear murmurs. Silent curses. Looks of concern, and hopes of divine intervention. We see the fastest runners run by in the other direction. Kenyans, and a few Americans. We say great job!

Pretty soon, the course reverses. A long pretty downhill beckons. We do our best to imitate the fastest runners. My teammate decides the pace, and I find we are not picking up at all.

A walker double-times (or attempts to) up mile 6 on our way back to mile 13. Now you’re thinking, is she going to make it in the 6-hour window? Who knows!

A young couple, oblivious in their yuppiness, runs by with ipods snaking firm on their ears. They sign to each other “You hear good? Me too”. They look alike, black tights and a white tech T. Their hair in place with the help of hair products. They seem to be out of place in this time and place, but they go about their business and relate only to each other. They look at everyone else with contempt.

The pace groups seem to be disintegrating.  Their numbers dwindling from twenties to a mere 4 or none.  The pacer lays down his flag by the side of the road.  The promising 4:15 group is no more.   How many will make it intact to the finish today?

Most of the early “fast” runners are walking by mile 18. They’d have done better if their pace was more pedestrian like ours. We pass so many and leave them bewildered.

A few runners are stretching out and walking off cramps. I don’t want to be them, that’s for sure.

Some are panting and stopping on the side of the road. Resting perhaps, and maybe wondering–can I go on? Maybe the lack of respect for the distance is doing them in. A look of defeat. Desperation. The prospect of a very long walk to the finish?

We pass this guy who was saying Hi to his many teammates on the course in the early miles. He is quiet now. He looks at us, and slows down his pace a bit.

An older runner plays leapfrog with us. He runs a bit and then walks. All of 3 times. And then no more.

As we are approaching Old Carlsbad, we run among throngs of half-marathon walkers. They will finish over 3 hours. We weave through them silently and with even pacing. Yes, we receive looks of envy–we are still running!

The blue and white balloons arch is listing to one side. It doesn’t matter. It announces the last 5K is at hand. My teammate does not seem to appreciate the significance.

The eyes of the marathoners near the finish are glazing over. All of them are thinking, “Let’s just get this over with already”.

They start sprinting towards the finish, and only let out their smiles as they cross the line.


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Ron, QS, and Christiane at the Carlsbad Marathon finish

Ron, QS, and Christiane at the Carlsbad Marathon finish

The weather was overcast, 50-60 degrees. Runner’s weather!

I was pacing for at least one teammate. There were two that I’ve introduced to long distances who were running their first marathon today. Ron ran with us for a while, but Christiane and I ran together for the whole marathon. Ron is tall, so his one step is two of ours; we kinda figured it was hard for him to stay with us.

Anyway, both did very well. Ron did 4:12 and Christiane did 4:17. I followed Christiane in. It was a surprise to me how strong both were after mile 21. Really consistent pacing, feeding, hydrating, and just managing their endurance overall. They promised to treat their informal coach to a steak dinner. Hmmm.

Glad I stayed away from speed today. My lungs are just recovering from some mild flu. The slower pace was ultimately good for my lungs I think. Oh, the pace groups withered to 3 or 4 after mile 18. 3:30, 3:40, 3:50, 4:00, 4:15, etecetera. I don’t know what was going on there.

Yo Mikey (a Kickrunners.com MSF friend) was at the finish; he actually yelled my name which made me turn and find him before I went into the finish line chute. That was cool. I stopped over and talked to him for a little bit before we took off. (There is evidence in the photos)

Here is an experiential race report about running this  marathon and the random thoughts that fly freely.

Overall, a great day.

I wanted to add: the announcer was saying 2009 might be the last showing of the Carlsbad marathon. The organizers are negotiating with other cities to put together the future “Beach Cities” marathon/half-marathon. We think it might be a marathon run on the PCH from beginning to end. That means no more big bump at miles 8-9.

Here are some photos.

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Got my bib and stuff quickly. Having the Expo under a big tent is convenient, however it rained today–so their artificial turf covering was soggy wet. I like the location of the expo and start (west of a big mall), but it seems to require better accommodations and setup.

I stopped by the OC Marathon booth. They are changing the course to keep the race mostly west and in and around the environs of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. So, mostly northwest of the start last year instead of east.

Also stopped by the Long Beach Marathon booth. They say they will have wave starts now, making the half marathoners go first. This is great because the boardwalk is always a bit too crowded with runners and walkers. I don’t know who determined the sequence–it is more logical to make the marathoners go first because there will be fewer.

Dane R. is a featured speaker. I think I saw him walking around the expo. I was rushing out, so I wasn’t able to say Hi. Anyway, I’m thinking there will be a lot of runners this year. Start time for the half is at 7:30 and the full is 6:00 this Sunday. That’s really nice.

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Slacker be gone!

So my running friends have been looking for me lately.  Somehow, I am having a hard time deciding which races to go for (away or local).  Anyway, it seems like it will be decided for me one way or the other.

The Orange Curtain 50K/100K is happening on 2/21.    The San Deguito Half is happening on 2/8.  A whole host of marathons in the great state of California are on my list of possibles (see the schedules page).

The locals don’t take that much planning.  However, I do have to sign up or miss it entirely.  I have already found myself closed out of Surf City.   So I need to get rid of the slacker that I’m turning out to be.  Stay tuned–I may be finalizing the CA races I’ll hit this year.

Registration for Chicago will open Feb 1st.  New York will be mid-February.  Thinking about the Tahoe Triple also.  We’ll see.

I’m running Carlsbad this weekend; I plan to run it slow, only because I’m just coming back from some case of mild flu.  I’m running with my teammate Christiane, and our pace will be around 9-10.  Whatever works for her.  By the way–it is her first marathon!

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Running marathons is about the most unforgiving of endurance events.  If you put in little training, you will definitely be suffering for a few hours.  It’s the kind of pain that makes you question your sanity; it makes you want to cry, if you have the luxury or courage to.

Anyway, there is no way around it.  You have to keep at your training if you want to be good at running.  When you see someone running in good form at mile 21, he wasn’t born with some gift for endurance.  He worked at it.

Which is why a running base could span years if a runner has never stopped running.  By stopping, I mean any stoppage of 2 months or more.  There is no need to run your body to the ground either.  As long as there is continuity (run some miles weekly), then it will all add up.

I worry about situations where I have to rest due to illness.  Of course, the most time I ever had to stay away from running is one week.  The plus is my body gets the rest; the minus is I feel sluggish when I finally start to run again.  Nothing to complain about, because we are really only talking about days here.

So take my advice–train consistently.  And then run like the wind when you race!

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Please find it here –> The dog ate my running shoes!

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Because the knees act as hinge and shock absorbers, eventually all runners will suffer from one sort of knee pain. These are most likely avoidable. Here are a few tips:

1) Lose the knee straps or compression sleeves. These will give you some mobility during a flare-up, but should not be relied upon when engaged in running. The support is artificial, and the muscles around the knees aren’t getting stronger.

2) Warm up your leg muscles before you run. Light stretching, knee rotations, and gently rubbing the knees will help prepare the muscles for the work at hand.

3) Strengthen all muscles around the knee. Note that all leg muscles are interconnected, and a weakness in one area requires another to compensate.

4) Lessen the impact on the knees. Run mostly knee forward. If the knee is true vertical, the force of impact is absorbed by the knees instead of the hamstrings. I realize that this requires some training, but the idea is to lessen the impact on the knees as much as possible.

5) Train the knees for endurance. Don’t subject the knees to race mileage that are too far away from training mileage. This is a sure recipe for injury. A conservative estimate is +- 5 miles of race distance in training. Also, use a training ratio of 5:1 (for every mile that you race, you should put in 5 miles of training).

6) Baby your knees. Protect them, and watch how you use them in daily life. Put up your feet as much as you can to take away some pressure.

7) Run differently on hills. There is no reason to dread running up and down hills. To run up a hill you need to lean the body forward and take shorter strides. When going downhill, you reverse it lean the body back and take longer strides. Perceived work effort should be on the uphill, with little or no work effort going downhill. I find the hills more forgiving on knees than the flats, possibly because it forces the runner to lower speed and also rest the knees with the change in running form.

8 ) Concentrate on running economy. The less there is of extra or wasted movement, the more efficient your running form will be. Focus on good running form because ultimately it will be good for the knees.

9) Lose some weight. A runner’s weight adds to the downward force. It affects the joints adversely. If you can’t lose the weight, then you need to run slower.

10) Do some training. Nothing that will make your legs look all muscular, but enough to make your legs strong. Avoid extreme movements or heavy weights.

11) The older you get, more cushioning is required. Don’t kid yourselves about bouncing back like the young kids. If orthotics are not easily available, buy shoes that have a lot of cushioning and stability.

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